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Press Release: For Immediate Release Summary of 2021 Black History Month Forum on “The Contributions of the Caribbean Diaspora to America” with Keynote Speaker, Julius Garvey, MD, OJ February 28, 2021

Washington, DC, February 28, 2021: – Julius Garvey, MD, Order of Jamaica (O.J.), and son of famous black nationalist and Jamaica’s first national hero, the Right Honorable Marcus Garvey, and Amy Jacques Garvey, keynoted a Black History Month forum shining the spotlight on “The Contributions of the Caribbean Diaspora to America.”

The Jamaican Nationals Association of the Washington DC Metropolitan Area (JNA), through the leadership of President Dr. Elaine Knight and Vice President Rev. Dr. Noel Godfrey, hosted this virtual Livestream forum with almost three hundred participants on February 28, 2021, celebrating the contributions of Caribbean nationals to the history and development of the United States. 

The forum focused on how Caribbean nationals have influenced various economic sectors in the United States and the world, including Business, Politics, Science, Medicine, Literature, Sports, Music, and the Arts. This enlightening discussion was titled “The Contributions of the Caribbean Diaspora to America.” 

Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States of America, Her Excellency, Ambassador Audrey P. Marks, and several dignitaries shared special remarks. Ambassador Marks highlighted the “remarkable contribution of members of the Jamaican and wider Caribbean Diaspora to the economic, social, cultural and political landscape of the United States.”

Our special guests who also shared remarks included:

  • Reverend Joseph M. Constant, Rector, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Zion Parish, Beltsville, MD who delivered the invocation.
  • Mr. Marc Elrich: Montgomery County Executive, MD
  • Dr. Calvin Ball:  Howard County Executive, MD
  • The Honorable Aisha Braveboy: Prince George’s County State’s Attorney, MD

Notably, the current status of Caribbean nationals in the United States (which includes approximately 8 million people according to the 2017 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey) finds the Caribbean diaspora “a well-educated and influential community.”  Leveraging this unique status of the Caribbean community, JNA and its collaborators: the Caribbean-American Political Action Committee (C-PAC), Jamaican Association of Maryland (JAM), and the Montgomery County Executive’s Caribbean American Advisory Group (CAAG), were able to highlight the interconnectivity among the historic and ongoing struggle for equal social, political, and economic justice.  The forum captured the mission of JNA over the past fifty years in its efforts “to unite persons of Jamaican heritage and friends of Jamaica to maintain and promote Jamaican culture and heritage.” It promoted the recognition of all Caribbean nationals and engendered sentiments of kinship and collaboration among Jamaica and her regional counterparts; especially during America’s Black History Month, cementing Jamaica’s common ancestry to Africa.

The discussion enhanced the unique perspectives of the Keynote Speaker, Dr. Julius Garvey, OJ.  He referenced notable individuals and their ideas, which showed remarkable contributions across Business, Politics, Science, Medicine, Literature, Sports, Music, and the Arts. To enumerate some examples, Dr. Garvey asserted the impact of individuals with Caribbean roots, such as America’s first female Vice-President of Jamaican and South Asian American descent, Kamala Harris; Shirley Chisholm; Colin Powell; Eric Holder; Susan Rice; David Patterson; Yvette Clarke; and Sheila Jackson-Lee. Additionally, Dr. Garvey expressed that “we could find a long list of people with Caribbean roots who have made significant contributions in the political arena at very high levels.”

Commenting on the critical contributions Marcus Garvey has made, Dr. Garvey noted that his father led one of the most influential international organizations to unite African people, i.e., the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and African Communities League (ACL). Dr. Garvey provided the audience with the intriguing background that propelled Marcus Garvey’s actions as he observed the inhumane conditions under which African people lived across the world. He further expounded that when Marcus Garvey came to the United States, “he wanted to emulate Booker T Washington’s Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University, to ensure that black people gained the trades and skills required to participate in the Industrial Revolution.” Dr. Julius Garvey narrated the powerful relationship between Marcus Garvey’s teachings and philosophies and the fight for equal social, political, and economic rights and justice by luminaries such as Denmark Vesey, Malcolm X, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), and Dr. Martin Luther King.

Dr. Julius Garvey commented that wealth creation and intergenerational wealth remain the hallmark characteristics of Caribbean people.  He indicated that Marcus Garvey’s organization employed thousands of people in business, a model replicated across the country in liberty halls, numbering more than forty organizations. Dr. Garvey also praised the accomplishments of  Earl Graves, who created Black Enterprise Magazine,  and served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo and a private Equity Fund. He lauded the business growth and success of companies such as Golden Krust and Caribbean Food Delights. Dr. Garvey noted that “we (Caribbean nationals) are always looking to own something and develop a business, declaring that this passion lies within our DNA  to build something that we can pass down to the next generation, despite there being no reparations.”

 Regarding the sectors of medicine and science, a medical surgeon himself, Dr. Garvey, elaborated on the critical need of Caribbean countries to focus on continued medical research/development and healthcare improvement. Dr. Garvey stated that Caribbean countries should change the economic parameters by   achieving self-sufficiency in their economies, especially by advancing agriculture “to eat what we grow.”

Dr. Garvey also pointed to the contributions of renowned Caribbean nationals in the fields of Literature, Arts, Music,  and Sports. To name a few examples, he described the impact of  Claude McKay, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Bob Marley, Maya Angelou, Edwidge Danticat, James Weldon-Johnson, Arturo Schomburg, Gwen Ifill, Dr. Kenneth Clarke, Dr. Orlando Patterson in advancing the movement for black self-love, liberation, culture, and pride.

The elementary, middle, high school and college students described the forum as “empowering, inspirational and a transformational event.” Dr. Julius Garvey responded to questions from this demographic regarding youth leadership, education of black boys, and how best to learn about and preserve their history as second and third-generation Caribbean immigrants. Dr. Garvey reiterated that it was critical to teach the legacy and the accomplishments of  Caribbean people and to remind our children  that “they are gifted and that they can achieve despite adversity to manifest  their talents in the best way possible.” The conversations with the youth reverberated with themes of resiliency, hope, persistence, and triumph as Dr. Garvey impressed upon them to acquire the skills and training needed to excel through commitment and hard work.

In his summary comments, Dr. Garvey emphasized that we should apply the lessons learned from the life stories of the many Caribbean icons discussed. He expressed that these notables actualized their gifts and talents and that each of us was born with and given a gift that we should utilize to impact humanity. 

Dr. Garvey also shared that a bust of his world-famous father has been commissioned and will be installed at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the anniversary of the elder Garvey’s 134th birthday – August 17, 2021. He stated that it was imperative to honor his father in Africa because “his (Marcus Garvey’s) whole life was about Pan-Africanism, African unity, a United States of Africa, the redemption of Africa and the reconstruction of African civilization.” Dr. Garvey mentioned that a joint committee was overseeing this project, including the Marcus Garvey Institute, Pan-African Technical Association Whirlwind Group, and National Association of Kawaida Organizations. The committee engaged Jamaican-born internationally renowned sculptor Nijel Lloyd Binns to create the bust. For additional information or to contribute to the project, individuals should visit www.marcusgarveybronze.com.

Dr. Karren Dunkley, international educator, social justice activist, and Global Jamaica Diaspora Council (GJDC) – Northeast Representative served as the moderator. During the closing remarks, Dr. Dunkley articulated that “the roots of Caribbean nationals are formidable with a magnificent presence and contributions that we must celebrate.” She emphasized that the clarion call to action resulting from the forum was the unapologetic liberation through education of “our minds, souls, economy, and religion.” The Jamaica Diaspora Northeast USA, Global Jamaica Diaspora Council, endorsed this capstone event.

Dr. Elaine Knight, in expressing her gratitude to Dr. Garvey, the dignitaries, the collaborators, the moderator, participants, and attendees, including the students, impressed upon the audience to inscribe one of her favorite quotes of the Right Honorable Marcus Garvey on their hearts, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.She applauded Dr. Julius Garvey for his “significant  contribution and commitment to the careers of many students and leaders.” Dr. Knight also emphasized the importance of JNA collaborating with others to ensure the success, posterity, and impact of Caribbean organizations. She credited these collaborations as playing a pivotal role in “accomplishing joint ventures to recognize the significant contributions made by Caribbean communities in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and the Northeast United States.”

The 2021 Black History Month Forum on “The Contributions of the Caribbean Diaspora to America” has deepened the ties among Caribbean nationals in the United States.

This forum reaffirmed JNA’s history as it was established in 1969 by Jamaican college students at an inaugural meeting held on the campus of Howard University. Since its inception over fifty years ago, JNA’s purposes can be summarized by these actions, “connecting, supporting, and celebrating community and culture.” JNA’s more detailed purposes include its efforts to: 

  • Unite persons of Jamaican heritage in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area (WMA) and their friends and supporters in membership and in support of the Association as a vehicle for communication and cooperation;
  • Identify, support or provide activities that promote Jamaican culture and heritage;
  • Assist students and members of Jamaican heritage in the WMA in pursuit of their educational and developmental goals and objectives;
  • Assist in improving the welfare of persons of Jamaican heritage in the WMA and in communities in the U.S. and in Jamaica, including the socially and economically disadvantaged; and
  • Assist charitable organizations serving Jamaican communities in the U.S. and in Jamaica.

The Jamaican Nationals Association, Inc. (JNA) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt,

non-profit organization

 We hope you will consider making a donation of any amount to help JNA to continue its mission to unite persons of Jamaican heritage and friends of Jamaica to maintain and promote Jamaican culture and heritage.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 56453, Washington, DC 20040

 Website: www.jnaofdc.org     Email: info@jnaofdc.org

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